Surviving 'Survivor' 

Auditioning to be the next Rupert

Auditioning to be the next Rupert

Some wore bathing suits. Others arrived wearing business suits. Some brought prepared handouts and head shots and others relied on their improv skills. Young and old, they all came for one reason: to beat the odds and be the second Indianapolis

I found myself among them, contemplating why I would make a good candidate for a reality TV show and preparing to explain it well enough to get a shot at a million dollars.

On Monday afternoon, Indianapolis’ CBS affiliate WISH-TV held an open casting call for the 10th season of the hit reality series. The audition was simple: fill out an application and wait for a turn to record a two-minute video to be sent by WISH-TV to the show’s producers.

Confession: I’ve never seen an episode of Survivor. I don’t know the rules or even the point of the game. Standing there among some of Indianapolis’ most dedicated Survivor fans, I felt under-dressed and under-prepared. And, walking into the nearly empty Pedigo Chevrolet dealership lobby, I felt strangely alone.

This was the second year open auditions were held in Indianapolis, and to streamline the process, numbers and approximate audition times were assigned on a first-come, first-serve basis. While event organizers expected a larger response this year because of Rupert’s success, there was no waiting line. I took an application and sat at an empty table nearby.

The first applicant to come in was Julie Rambow. Dressed in a simple black dress, she flashed me a huge smile and turned to the event organizers. “Is there a place for me to change?” she asked, waving a black bag bulging with clothing. She had brought a costume, head shots and a cover letter. This was unexpectedly complex — for a show about reality it seemed to require a lot of preparation.

As more applicants came in, it was a relief to see that some were nearly as unprepared as I. The stress of the experience brought the other nerve-wracked contestants into small groups, nervously chattering about why they came and what they planned to say in their 120 seconds of fame. Nearly everyone said they planned to speak off the cuff — though they exchanged ideas and strategies with each other anyway.

Despite the number system, some of the applicants had also tried to hedge their bets by showing up before dawn to claim a place in line, only to find the dealership closed and locked.

“I was here at 3 a.m. with lawn chairs and a cooler,” said Mike Harrison, who held one of the first numbers. “The place was all lit up but there was no one here. I finally went home.”

Lisa Allen, a 28-year-old mother of four, had also planned to camp outside of the dealership. Allen stood out in the crowd, perhaps because of her high heels and fluorescent orange bikini.

“I really wanted to stand out,” Allen said, confessing that despite her intimidating outward confidence she was nervous about the audition. “I went to a bar dressed like this beforehand for a drink. My husband was so embarrassed.”

For Harrison, however, trying out for Survivor was not a new experience. He sent in his own tape and application four years ago and hoped that this time he would get a call back.

As numbers were called each of my new confidants took their turns in front of the camera. Rambow pointed out that with a name like hers — pronounced “Rambo” — she couldn’t help but make a great candidate. Harrison was as outgoing in front of the camera as he had been in line. Allen showed that, even after four kids, it’s still possible to look fantastic on film. And I, resolving to tell the truth, confessed my ignorance of the show and took a bow.

A bit flustered from the lights and the stress of staring into the lens of a large and admittedly intimidating camera, I stepped around the yellow caution tape that divided the “audition areas” from the rest of the showroom and rejoined Rambow. Like many of the other contestants, she remained to talk and cheer on the friends she made that day while waiting for her number to be called.

While I doubt anyone will call me, getting a chance to see a group of people working together and helping one another, even while technically competing against each other, was worth the time it took to fill out the 11-page application.

Now I finally have a reason to watch Survivor.

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